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Miami considers wide use of water taxis after successful boat show

The Miami International Boat Show’s water taxi service to and from the show was so successful that local officials are discussing a public water transit system.
The Miami International Boat Show’s water taxis were so successful that some city officials are trying to advance discussion of a water transit system.

The Miami International Boat Show’s water taxis were so successful that some city officials are trying to advance discussion of a water transit system.

The Miami International Boat Show’s water taxi service to and from the show was so successful that local officials are discussing exploration of a public water transit system.

The boat show saw months of opposition to its plan to reduce traffic on the Rickenbacker Causeway, which is the only way to and from the new show site on Virginia Key and tends to become clogged with traffic when no event takes place.

The argument from neighboring Key Biscayne officials, who vociferously opposed the show’s move to the Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, was that Miami residents love their cars and won’t be persuaded to use shuttle buses or water taxis.

Now Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado says the boat show “started the conversation” around a public water transit system, an idea he called a “no brainer” for helping unclog Miami traffic, given the abundance of water, according to Miami Today.

Miami Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort, who has championed expanding water transportation in the area, asked the National Marine Manufacturers Association how many people took advantage of the water taxis at a city commission meeting.

“Everyone said the public transportation would not work. It worked fabulously,” show director Cathy Rick-Joule said at the meeting, according to the paper. “The only problem was, we couldn’t keep up with it. It was more popular than we could have possibly imagined,” she said. But that is “fixable,” she said, “and we are excited about that opportunity.”

“We had planned to transfer 25,000 people via water taxi, but we wound up transporting almost 53,000,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today. “About 75 to 80 percent of people who attended the show used the park and ride, meaning they used water taxis or shuttle buses. So our communications were extremely successful.”

Next year the show will be ready for the high traffic, Dammrich said.

“People clearly loved going to the show by water taxi,” he said. “When given the option to get on a shuttle bus or wait in a long line for a water taxi, most people opted to stay in line and wait for a water taxi.”

In the recent past Gort has discussed the value of using the area’s waterways for transportation in further efforts to unclog area roads and highways, Miami Today reported. Last year he tried to encourage the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization to study the feasibility of water transportation.

Regalado said he’s looking forward to further conversation about advancing waterborne public transit.

“As of now, there is no organized water taxi transportation in the city of Miami, or Miami-Dade County, for that matter. And we live with water; we are surrounded by water. … It’s a no-brainer [and] it was the boat show that started this conversation,” Regalado said.

The newspaper said city leaders “hailed” the show’s success.

A separate article that ran in The New Tropic did a fact check of the assertions the village of Key Biscayne made about the show.

That story outlined the strides made toward the effort to preserve the Miami Marine Stadium — something opponents said wouldn’t be addressed by the show.

“We had a great booth location right in front of the stadium, and people walked in and were curious, and we had the opportunity to tell them about the history of the stadium,” Christine Rupp, the executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust, told the paper. The petition garnered more than 3,000 signatures, she told The New Tropic.

Analyses regarding the impact of pilings, docks and manatee protection were pending, though a manatee killed by a boat was outside the show’s coverage area, the article said.

Traffic remained as usual — and some said even lighter than normal — especially after water taxis and shuttle buses were added. Key Biscayne Mayor Mayra Lindsay, who has led opposition to the show, called it “the best possible thing [the boat show] could have done.”

Lastly, the paper rebuked concerns about litter in the basin. “While a water analysis that would reveal the extent of pollution by oil and chemicals from boat traffic (which the city of Miami approved) is not yet available, the mayor acknowledged that her concern about widespread Styrofoam pollution did not bear out,” the paper said.

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